Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dave Berns Feels "Relief" About Leaving KNPR

In this week's Vegas media shocker, Dave Berns, the host of KNPR's two-hour daily talk and interview show "State of Nevada," left his job abruptly today.

It was a poorly kept secret around KNPR and among those who appeared often on the program -- myself included -- that Berns had grown frustrated and uncomfortable with the direction of the program and clashed with KNPR General Manager Flo Rogers. But today, reached by phone, Berns insisted the parting was amicable.

"Right now, I have a sense of relief and it's because doing the show every day creates a lot of pressure," said Berns, a former Review-Journal business writer and editor and publisher of Las Vegas Business Press, both owned by Stephens Media. "It's nice not to have some pressure."

Berns was vague about his differences with Rogers, who created the show along with former Vegas TV anchor Gwen Castaldi in 2003. Berns subbed for Castaldi often and then became the full-time anchor four years ago after her retirement.

"Basically, Flo and I have had a number of conversations about the direction of the program," he said. "She sees it one way, I see it as another. I won't go into specifics. This is about the direction of the show. The bottom line is, Flo hired me four years ago and this show is her creation. It's not my bat and not my ball. She's been great to me, given me every opportunity to grow professionally and as a person."

As Dave would with a cagey guest, I asked the question a few more ways. He's evidently learned a thing or two from all those politicians he interviewed, though.

"The show I've been doing is the show I could see us continuing to do," he said. "Flo has a slightly different version of it. I don't want to go into her version. We've agreed to leave it at that."

Rogers was unavailable for comment today but said through a spokeswoman: "Obviously, we wish Dave all the best."

Berns had already been stripped of some of his authority related to the show earlier this year. He was, as host and senior producer, the final arbiter of what went on the program until last summer when former Las Vegas Business Press editor Ian Mylchreest became executive producer. Berns says now that this was a logical division of labor, that it did free him to focus on his hosting responsibilities and that Ian remains a close friend. "It just takes a lot of work to keep up with you and (Steve) Sebelius and (Jon) Ralston on Nevada Week in Review and reading all your blogs," he said. "I welcomed the change."

If all this had been brewing for so long, why now?

"It just felt right for the both of us," Berns said. "Part of it is, it's really important for the station to have a good clean transition, so the artificial nature of the end of the year helps."

Berns said he's got several shows on tape to be played this month and that the December holidays are typically a period for reruns anyhow.

Berns brought to his role at KNPR a newspaperman's doggedness with politicians and public officials that Castaldi lacked as a former TV anchor. Castaldi dwelled frequently in long interviews with Vegas old-timers whereas Berns showed a fascination for topics that occasionally were only loosely related to Las Vegas but could be involved in the broader water-cooler discussion of the day. He'd frequently invoke his Jewish, New Yorker and Baby Boomer credentials to engender comraderie with the likes of Harvey Fierstein, Hal Prince and others.

His interviews with Andre Agassi and Tony Curtis rank among his most memorable.

"When Agassi was in recently, I almost felt like I was talking to my younger brother," he said. "And when Tony Curtis was in, I almost felt like I was talking to my father. For some reason, the shorthand was all there and it just worked."

No anchor replacement has been announced.

[Disclosure: I have been a frequent guest of "State of Nevada" and substitute hosted twice this year.]


paolomello said...

I wish Dave the best. The show won't be the same without him.

Anonymous said...

wow. right after collecting our $500 contribution for S.O.N. :( I guess in 2010 the ASPCA gets that money.

CJJames said...

SON without Berns is like penut butter w/o the jelly. Would you eat it? Sure, but not as often.

John said...

Goddamn. I can't even imagine State Of Nevada without my Dave Berns. Dave you're a part of my morning life, my coffee, and my paper. I'll really, really miss you.

J.T. said...

I wasn't a regular listener, but enjoyed the show when I did tune in. It didn't hurt that Berns has a great radio voice.

I'm sorry that this sounds ghoulish, but there are quite a few top-notch local journalists who have recently found themselves without a job. I'm not saying I won't miss Berns, but I do think the station should be able to find a quality replacement.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner said...

That is very disappointing and quite surprising. We've been long-time fans and members of KNPR and think that Dave did an even better job than Gwen. His ability to deal with irate guests on his show -- most memorably, Jim Rogers -- never ceased to amaze us. Ironically, just this week we contacted him about potentially doing a segment on the need for language services (translation, interpretation) in this state, as it depends so much on international tourism. As the VP of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association, Judy thought this would be an interesting topic. Sadly, if it ever comes to be, it won't be with Dave.

Amazing job, Dave! Thanks for the in-depth interviews, your outstanding interview skills, and for that soothing voice of yours: made for radio.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see Dave go. If the show becomes another entertainment segment, I for one won't be listening. Entertainment - we've got that elsewhere, everywhere, ad nauseum. Vegas needs serious, open-minded, intelligent talk shows, now we've lost a great one.